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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - Still more on: First it was the big boxes, now the CVS stores ...

On August 25th and August 26th the ILB had posts on the Indiana Board of Tax Review's mid-August ruling "in favor of CVS on its appeal of the county’s assessments of its College Avenue location from 2009 to 2013," per the Bloomington Herald Times.

On August 31st, Hayleigh Colombo reported in a lengthy story in the IBJ headed "County assessors may push for stricter big-box tax laws":

Monroe County Assessor Judy Sharp hoped a new Indiana law that prohibits appraisals from using closed or sold stores as comparisons in determining the value of newer big-box stores would ensure a CVS in her county wouldn’t get a reprieve on its taxes.

So, she was disappointed when the Indiana Board of Tax Review determined in August that the Bloomington CVS had been over-assessed, and as a result, overtaxed for five years starting in 2009.

To Sharp, that was proof that the new law didn’t go far enough to protect counties from losing out on tax revenue from retailers in search of lower tax bills.

The law "was a Band-Aid, but not a total fix,” said Sharp, who is president of the Indiana County Assessors Association. “It was too open-ended.”

Now, some Indiana county officials are pushing lawmakers to strengthen the rules when the General Assembly convenes in January in an effort to restrict stores from using the “dark store theory” in determining the value of their properties. * * *

But new legislation would almost assuredly bring another fight with big-box retailers, who say they’re being unfairly taxed. The Indiana Board of Tax Review, or IBTR, has previously ruled in favor of the retail stores, including a late 2014 ruling that a successful Meijer on East 96th Street should have been assessed in 2012 at $7.2 million, not the $19.7 million assigned by Marion County.

Stephen Paul, an attorney with Faegre Baker Daniels who represented retail stores in opposing the 2015 legislation, said retailers would certainly fight any new legislation—and might even push for this year’s law to be repealed.

“I’m confident stores will oppose any further push,” Paul said. “The stores have bent over backwards to cooperate with local government. … There could be [a push to repeal] if the assessors aren’t going to be reasonable about it.”

The 2015 law, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, passed both the Senate and House unanimously, and applied to appraisals of non-income-producing buildings newer than 10 years old that are occupied by the original owner. It stated, among other restrictions, that comparable sales should include properties that have been for sale for less than year and are used for similar purposes.

Hershman said he is receptive to revisiting the issue in the next legislative session, but cautious to judge the effectiveness of the new law on the recent CVS decision. Monroe County will have to refund CVS about $150,000 if Sharp, who plans to appeal the decision, is unsuccessful.

The matter will be discussed at an upcoming study committee on fiscal issues, Hershman said.

“I don’t want one case to pass judgment on the effectiveness of a new law,” he said. “The jury is still out. If this is the precursor to a pattern of continuing decisions, that’s something we would take into account.”

Meanwhile, Indiana county assessors are on the lookout for more appeals from retailers. Some counties, including Johnson County, have just sent out their 2016 property tax bills and are still waiting to hear from unhappy taxpayers.

ILB: As for the CVS ruling and its reasoning with respect to the 2015 statutory change, the IBTR as yet has not made the ruling available online, or indeed any of its rulings since the end of July, 2015. Earlier the ILB was told that per policy, "the parties have 2 weeks after a decision is reached to identify any confidential information that needs to be redacted." The date of the CVS ruling also is unknown to the ILB.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 8, 2015 01:27 PM
Posted to Indiana Government